Gerrard: Palace boss Vieira was ‘one of my toughest battles’

News Desk
Steven Gerrard tries to catch up with Patrick Vieira

Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard says Crystal Palace counterpart Patrick Vieira was “one of the toughest battles” he faced as a player and anticipates another fierce test when they go head to head as managers this weekend.

Gerrard’s side play at Selhurst Park on Saturday in his second game since taking charge at Villa.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the former Liverpool captain said of ex-Arsenal skipper Vieira: “He’s a man I have a lot of admiration and respect for, first and foremost as a player.

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“I had many battles against Patrick, some highs, some lows. He was certainly a player you could really go and compete against. You could kick him, fight him, compete against him and he’d shake your hand after the game.

“He was a top, top footballer and one of the toughest battles I ever faced in terms of being a player, and I expect the same to be the case from the side. I know he’s a winner.”

Having succeeded Gerrard’s former Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson at Palace over the summer, Vieira has seen the Eagles lose just twice in their 12 Premier League games so far this term, and they are unbeaten in their last seven.

“He has started at Crystal Palace really, really well,” Gerrard said.

“He’s changed the style. Roy Hodgson did a fantastic job, he seems to have built on that good work, gone a lot younger in his recruitment, is different in his style, and he has his team flying high at the moment. It’s going to be a tough test, we have a lot of respect for the fixture.”

Asked if there were any particular games against fellow midfielder Vieira from their playing days that stood out as highs, Gerrard said: “I don’t want to sit here and boast, I’ve got to stand next to this guy for 90 minutes and he’s 6ft 5, he’s strong, so I need to be careful with my words!

“He absolutely terrorised Liverpool in the 2001 FA Cup final. I had the unfortunate task of trying to mark him, and he was much too good for me on the day – but we managed to turn the game around and win 2-1, so that certainly finished on a high for me.”

He added of the Frenchman: “I think the things we maybe have in comparison is when we finished our careers we certainly went to the beginning to start in terms of the coaching route, going to academy football (Gerrard at Liverpool, Vieira at Manchester City) where you can learn away from the cameras and make a load of mistakes and get your pitch confidence. I’m sure Patrick would echo that.

“He’s more experienced than myself to this point, but I really admire the fact he went to City’s Under-23s squad and really put the work into growing and evolving as a manager. I have a lot of respect for that.”

Gerrard, appointed by Villa as successor to Dean Smith on November 11, got off to a winning start last Saturday as his team beat Brighton 2-0 at home, which ended a five-match losing streak.

“The win has certainly lifted the place,” Gerrard said. “A lot of smiling going on, a lot of people enjoying their work, which is great to see, and now we have to try to back that up and build on it going into the next fixture.”

Gerrard was asked about setting up a private Instagram account for his players, and said: “We use all kinds of different methods to put information across to players. Instagram is another way, alongside your likes of the WhatsApps, to put information and reminders to players.

“We’ve come in at a time where we haven’t had the luxury of a pre-season, so we’re trying to cut as many corners as we can to get the identity and the standards across to the players that we expect as a group of staff.”

Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz could make his return to action against Palace after three games out due to a hamstring injury.